The COPA Commission Report: 10 Years Later
This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the release of the COPA Commission Report, the first significant report that identified key methods to help reduce minors’ access to harmful material online. The Commission, upon which I served, reinforced the strategy for Internet safety that has been recommended by EIE since 1994: we all must play a role in protecting our children online. The government, law enforcement, public and technology industry all share in this responsibility.
One of the key recommendations from the Commission was that the government and private sector should undertake a major education campaign to promote public awareness of technologies and methods available to protect children online, in a format that reached families both online and offline. With strong support and funding from Congress, the Department of Justice, and our industry partners, in 2007 we began development of the Internet Safety 101 program, which we rolled out nationally this year.
The multi-media Internet Safety 101 program provides parents, educators, law enforcement and community leaders with a comprehensive education resource that meets the vision of the Commission. It is designed to educate parents and other caring adults about online dangers while stressing the importance of involving parents and caregivers in a child’s activity online. Ultimately, it equips and empowers adults with the knowledge to utilize available technologies, resources and methods to help them effectively parent in the virtual world. These basic Internet Safety 101 Rules ‘N Tools serve as the key educational take-away of the program.
From a public education and empowerment perspective, collectively, we have made significant strides. Parental control solutions, online safety programs and technologies emerge in the market continually to empower parents, educators and others. The national focus on online child safety, digital security and citizenship has been the result of the hard-fought work of many of us in the online safety world.
Unfortunately, several COPA Commission recommendations have not been pursued. Federal and state obscenity laws have not been aggressively enforced. The Government must refocus its efforts to fund, at all levels, prosecutions of existing obscenity laws. Additionally, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA)-passed by Congress in 1998 to protect children from “harmful to minors” pornography online-was enjoined by the Third Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually upheld the lower court’s decision. As a result, in the absence of COPA, and without enforcement of existing obscenity laws, the pornographers continue to have free reign to produce content that is increasingly deviant, violent, and aberrant: harmful content that is just one click away from any child with unrestricted Internet access.
We have been pleased at Enough Is Enough to work alongside the government and the technology industry to provide a strong response to the Commission’s call to provide a national public education program to parents and other caring adults. Together, we are making a difference, but there is much more to do, for the sake of our children.